Friday, December 23, 2016

Lessons from a Christmas Baby

Christmas has come around again and then the weeks of advertising it and the days of frenzy preparing for it will be ended. I hope that you will have a few moments to yourself and take stock of what this season of the year is all about. God has come down to live with us in the form of a baby boy. The miracles that are associated with Jesus in his later life, and even the raising of the dead, all pale into insignificance in the light of this great mystery - that the Creator God should confine himself to the form of this little child and live among us.

"Mild he lays his glory by,
Lives that man may never die
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth!"

Some years ago I was a Pastor serving a church on the south coast of England. Every year, just about Christmas, a little family would turn up at the church asking me to dedicate (christen) their new little baby. Johnny and his crew were travelers, Gypsy folk, who hove to in our town annually so that the minister could pray over their latest arrival! One year, I held the little one in my arms, and shared with Johnny and his family my hope that one day, when she is of age, she might accept the Lord Jesus for herself as Lord and Saviour. Well, something must have touched Johnny's heart, because on Christmas day he was back again in the building. This time he waited till the end of my sermon, and when I invited anyone present who wanted to commit their lives to Jesus Christ, maybe for the first time, Johnny was the first one at the front, head bowed and with tears in his eyes. That Christmas Day Johnny Sparks became a believer, and through a little baby, another tough heart had melted.

Just like the shepherds really - the night shift outside Bethlehem. They were ordinary men, quite tough too, but their hearts were melted as they bowed and worshipped the tiny babe. And the wise men, drawn from their intellectual pursuits to make this baby the object of their adoration and pilgrimage. And what about you? Will you come and bow before the baby who became a man and died to save all those who would believe and trust him? Why not? Why not now? Why not you?

Have a really happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Most folk who have driven over long distances in either the UK or the nearby European mainland,with children in the back, will be all too well acquainted with this question. "Are we there yet?" In fact, over a long journey, it could drive you crazy if you let it! Repeated queries as to when something big or exciting is going to happen is a very human thing, but it’s also child-like. God calls us to live as His children, and there is room in our relationship with God for excitement, anticipation and hope. The Bible tells us that God Himself is a “God of Hope” (Romans 15:13) so He invented the idea of expectant joy.

The word “enthusiasm” derives from the Latin term meaning “having a god within”. Well, that’s what Christmas is all about isn’t it? God coming to us in the form of a little child. Not "a god" but "the God" in astounding vulnerability and humility. Jesus was God’s perfect gift chosen with just you and me in mind. Mind you – as with all gifts – we need to receive it with gratitude. Then, if it’s electric, we must switch it on. Not much point just being all excited but not receiving and using the gift, is there?

Christmas Day is coming and the whole Western world seems to be champing at the bit for it to arrive. When it does come, though, the day will be over quite quickly, but the process of opening and receiving God's amazing gift can take a lifetime. Joseph was told by the angel "Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Are we there yet? Well, very nearly!  

Friday, November 25, 2016

"Carpe Diem" means taking life in small steps.

Life is best taken in small chunks. One day at a time may have been a great song title, but it's not the whole story. In reality one step at a time may be nearer to the mark, and a far greater challenge. "Carpe Diem" literally means "pluck the day" but is best translated as "seize the moment". Yesterday is gone, never to be repeated. Tomorrow may never be ours to enjoy. So seize the moment and live in it to the full. A young father and husband I know lies desperately ill in the Intensive Care Unit, his life in the balance. Each heartbeat is precious. Every breath to be treasured as a gift. I pray daily for his recovery.

This can, of course, work in two different ways. One may lead to a profligate lifestyle, saying "ah well, blow the future, I'm just going to enjoy myself today". But the Bible tells us to number our days and be careful how we spend them, always seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It also shows us that our lives are like a tale that has been told, just a breath on a windy day. We need to make every moment count.

I took a small step forward this week in that the results of a liver biopsy show that the state of my liver should not adversely affect the chances of a successful main operation to remove my pancreas etc and transplant part of it into my liver. It is so hard to wait for the next step. Every time the phone rings I jump thinking it might be the Professor or his secretary. I find a day to be quite a long time when you are waiting for answered prayer. It stretches out interminably, especially when pain or other symptom prevents much activity. Learning to be grateful for the small step taken this week, and then trust God for the next one is the challenge facing me today, and possibly you too.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Angel of the North

We leave tomorrow for yet another trip to the north of the UK for medical help. Getting there involves two flights to cover the 450 miles or so. The stop-over means a journey time of around three to four hours if there are no delays. I will be admitted onto the liver transplant ward at the Freeman Hospital for a liver biopsy to be taken on Thursday morning. This is one of the most prestigious units in the country for anything to do with the liver, pancreas etc. At the top of the nearby old main road to the area stands the Angel of the North statue, a contemporary sculpture, designed by Antony Gormley.

Completed in 1998, it's a steel sculpture 20 metres (66 ft) tall, with wings measuring 54 metres (177 ft) across. The wings do not stand straight sideways, but are angled 3.5 degrees forward; Gormley did this to create "a sense of embrace".

As I continue along the road that will lead, hopefully, to a new start for me, I am not particularly impressed with modern art, but I am distinctly aware of a sense of embrace. Firstly, Diane will be with me. The BBC have been doing some research recently into what constitutes beauty.  Well they can stop right there, because I am embraced by one of the most loyal, kind, selfless and caring of people I know, whose smile can light up a whole hospital ward! Then we are supported by the prayers of so many. Yet the greatest reassurance comes from that which is described by the hymn writer as "the love that will not let me go".  Now that is some embrace.

Friday, October 28, 2016

News has just reached us of the passing into heaven of a dear friend and fervent evangelist, Peter Jackson. Peter was in our home not many months ago when he made one of his frequent visits to Guernsey. Peter was totally blind from infancy but his gift at playing the piano was superb and deeply moving. Listen to Peter's dynamic playing behind the spoken intro to a DVD of his life and ministry, and then the very thrilling crescendo - speaking of heaven the lyrics ask "Is this the crowning day?" Well, for Peter it is, and may his amazing life's story move each of us to be ready likewise for our own call into eternity. I have been able to order this DVD from Christian Faith Ministries at

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Simply the Best

I was sipping tea, still in bed, waiting for the 8am news to come on my local radio station. Out of my tiny radio came the glorious chant of Tina Turner singing "Simply the Best". Wow, I always love the refrain of that song, if not all the lyrics. Then came the news and within seconds I was in despair for the world in which we live. One of the presidential candidates hoping to be elected to become 'the leader of the free world' as some describe the office, Donald Trump, has exceeded all the dismal things he is alleged to have done. I listened to a scandalous and disgraceful recording, which he has now said was a true record of what he felt about women in 2005 and for which he has apologised. The other candidate, of course, Hilary Clinton, will be delighted with this piece of dirt-digging by her team and is crowing her horror, whist overlooking claims that allege that she should be in jail and not on the presidential trail for her past wrongdoings.

This came on top of another story which reported that two leaders of a growing and well-supported political party in the UK were reduced to a bout of physically slugging it out at the European parliament. This unseemly joust ended with one of the MEP's in hospital - the one offering himself as leader of the party!  Is there anybody worthy of being followed any more? Are the two US presidential candidates 'simply the best' available in the USA? Does UKIP have a future in government if its leaders behave this way?

I mentioned the lyrics in Tina Turner's famous song, as some fail to charm me, but I am very taken with these lines "You're simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I ever met.' For me, these words speak of Jesus Christ, the one I follow without fear of being disillusioned. There was not one ounce of corruption in him that his enemies could point out, however deeply they dug. The record of his life, penned by a man who watched him closely for at least 3 years night and day, was that he - Jesus - was without sin (1 Peter 2:22).

Now that's simply the best and he gets my vote! But we need to pray for America and Europe in their leadership famine, and ask God to raise up leaders worthy of respect.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Some Action at Last!

We are so grateful for the praying and caring of so many dear friends and supporters. Many of you have been aware that I have been waiting for a long time now to hear about a treatment plan that involves a very major operation including an element of transplantation. We have been to Newcastle three times in the last year and most recently went for scans and tests. Anyway, we had a really helpful conversation today with the Professor who leads the team and he is really hopeful they will be able to operate before Christmas.  I know we have been at that point before when we actually came within a fortnight of an op-date, 23rd June, when it was cancelled because of concerns about safety in the light of how very ill I had been over Easter etc. This time, the delay is because there are question marks over whether my liver will be well enough to sustain the Islets of Langerhan (that control insulin) once they have been recovered from the removed pancreas, as they plan to transplant them into the liver.

So, we have to go back to Newcastle once again quite soon for liver tests (Diane always comes with me as I don't think I would make the trip without her help, and I certainly could not face anything traumatic without her at my side). Sincere thanks to those of you who have helped us on all these trips in all kinds of ways, not least of all, prayer and intercession.  We are still holding on to our promise text from 1 Peter 5:10 "After you have suffered a little while our God, who is full of kindness through Christ.. will personally come and pick you up.. and make you stronger than ever". We feel that is what God has said to us and it is the basis of our confidence, because the promises of God are "Yes" and "Amen" to those who trust him. I know that may appear naive to some, but it has sustained us through some very low times as I set out in my first book "Braving the Storm" which is still available from me or Amazon if you have not read it yet.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

When Waiting is the Hardest thing to do.

Just about everything in the old prophet's life had let him down. 'Habakkuk' is a tough name to be landed with anyway (imagine how that would have gone down when you were at school!) but the passing of the years had not been kind to him. Surveying all his assets one morning and recognising the reality of his loss, he penned words that have given generations to follow a language to express their pain, their determination and hope.

 He wrote: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour." (Hab. 3:17-18)

Habakkuk was a man waiting for better days - which he knew were coming because of the promises God had made him - but in this 'in-between time' he knew that he had to keep his spirit clear of resentment and find rest for his soul. Bitterness due to his loss would only be like eating his own skeleton and would leave him a shapeless jelly, unable to make good decisions or to cope with the pressure of the day. So he wandered up to the high place where he had created a space to stand before God and he cried - not in anger or regret, but in worship and surrender.

It's a funny day for me today. I am still waiting for the surgical team in Newcastle to make a decision as to whether they can help me or whether the massive surgery might be too dangerous for me.  All we seem to do these days is wait! But in the waiting I was so encouraged to read these verses in today's page in the reading notes Encounter by Scripture Union where Alison Lo looks at these very verses in Habakkuk and sums them up so brilliantly. "Amid the raging storm, the prophet has grown from restless doubt to deathless faith; from protesting anger to quiet contentment".

Lord - grant me that attitude today, that grace to sustain me in waiting, and that calm assurance in knowing, in the midst of the barrenness, that You are silently planning for me in love. Amen

Monday, August 15, 2016

Going for Gold

The amazing efforts of all medal-winning athletes and sportsmen and women is filling our TV screens and dominating our newspapers at the time of writing. Rio 2016 is proving to be a good year for our Team GB, now second in the long list of medal winning nations. But repeated over and over is the mantra that these Games are only the tiny summit of a huge mountain of training, preparation and commitment. I was listening to an interview on BBC Radio 4 this morning and heard a remarkable few sentences from one of the coaches working with the British Cycling team and Sir Bradley Wiggins in particular. He said that without commitment of the highest order, none of these participants would go home with a medal.

Commitment is what gets them up every morning long before the rest of us, to train, exercise and prepare. Then, after a full days work in most cases, it is their high level of commitment to achieve their Olympic gold, that gets them out to train in the evenings also. It must be a lonely road in order to prepare properly for these few days of competition, as others may not share or appreciate the single minded devotion to their sport that they must show.

One of the early leaders of the Christian faith urged those who follow Christ to recognise that they are in a race or are competing to win in life.  Winning may not have the glamour of the Olympic podium or win the applause of others, but it will only happen when a life is lived with a clear-cut commitment to a cause outside of oneself. Maybe we need a commitment check-up right now?

We have seen the look of utter exhaustion but also of ecstasy on the faces of medal winners as they meet the goal for which they have been committed for so long. I wonder what our faces would reflect if we are truly committed to do God's will and serve his purpose in our time? In fact, I wonder what our churches would look like where a majority shared a level of commitment that would not settle for second best?  I may be down at the moment, like Mo Farah in the final of the 10,000 meters, but I am determined not to stay down! The glint of life's greatest gold beckons me on!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Honey from the Rock

"He's as hard as a rock!" is a well-known comparison and descriptive phrase. So is "between a rock and a hard place" as a way of saying that times are tough and options are very limited. Living as I do, on an island made of fabulous granite rocks, I am well aware of their enormous hardness and impervious make-up. Can anything good flow from a rock?

In the ancient hymnal of the Jewish people there is a song/psalm which suggests that rocks can be more than a good foundation - they can also be the source of sweetness and joy!  Psalm 81:16 portrays God speaking "with honey from the rock I would satisfy you". Each day I enjoy reading the daily devotion in the Psalms written by Timothy Keller and his wife Kathy called 'My Rock My Refuge' and this is the set Psalm for today the 19th July. New York pastor Timothy Keller is known for his ability to connect a deep understanding of the Bible with contemporary thought and the practical issues we all face in our lives. Mr Keller says that this idea that sweetness flows from hardness crops up several times in the Bible.  Samson experienced this when he killed an attacking lion and then, some time later, was able to eat honey from the carcass (Judges 14:18). For Christians, the significance of the cross is that out of the hardness of being crucified, as Jesus was, life and forgiveness flow to satisfy the needs of all who believe.

This concept of receiving honey from an impossibly hard place has sustained and helped me for a long time now. I am "between a rock and a hard place" in the circumstances of my long battle with serious illness. But, despite that, I feel the comfort of knowing that God is with me and wants daily to feed me with the spiritual nourishment of hope, peace and the joy of forgiveness, no matter how hard the rock gets.

Your rock will be very different to mine, because each of us is unique, but be assured today that God wants to slip you something really good even from the very thing that threatens to flatten you.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A 'Remainer' Reflects on the Referendum Vote

Change can be unnerving. Britain faces a massive change following the referendum vote this week in which a small majority voted to leave the European Union. So the UK and the EU will go their separate ways and nobody can foretell what the outcome of that choice will be for good or ill. After more than 40 years of entanglement with the European project under its various names or formats, it will not be easy to find wriggle-room and pull away. The tendrils of the EU will surely be with the UK for a few years to come while this divorce takes place. Some people fear the whole process and are worrying about what is to become of their future now.

One thing is clear - there will be no going back from this vote. The decision taken this week will now determine the UK's direction for the foreseeable future and beyond. Our children and grandchildren will feel the outcome for good or ill. So, how should a Christian react to these critical events?

Fear is never healthy or helpful in our lives, no matter what is causing the heart to be afraid. That's why the Bible tells us 'don't be afraid' 365 times - once for every day and a spare one for leap years! God is still on His throne and does not plan to vacate it soon, whatever votes may be taken on earth. The Bible also teaches us that He has a plan for us that is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11 'I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord - 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!'). This knowledge has been a mainstay for me through all the troubles I have seen, and I believe it can also help you to overcome fear.

This is also the time for us to increase our fervent intercession and prayer for the leaders and potential leaders of the UK. It is rightly said that evil triumphs when good people do nothing, and we need to pray for the nation now more than ever.

Our little island of Guernsey has done very well outside the EU (as one French foreign ministry spokesperson acknowledged this week) and the UK can do so too. Now, more than ever though, we need the peace of God that passes all understanding to keep hearts secure through a time of change, and a sincere trust in the living God who wants to guide us all, whether in or out of the EU.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment

Waiting is never easy. It can cause immense disappointment when you get 'psyched up' to have a major operation, for instance, and then it is postponed. That's the situation I am in now and it is really tough to handle.Our working-up visit to Newcastle went well, and after seeing people in 9 different areas in 3 different hospitals it really seemed that the op. booked to take place on June 23rd 2016 would go ahead as planned. I was dreading the surgery but really hoping for the new start it could well give me, - and then suddenly - STOP - well you can imagine how I felt. Apparently I am not sufficiently recovered from the acute attack that put me in hospital for 3 weeks after Easter to allow the Professor to proceed as scheduled. Now, instead of going for it next week, we will have to have scans in August and subject to those showing marked improvement, the surgery could take place in September.

Some few years ago I was asked to lead a seminar at Elim Bible Week on the subject of "Dealing with Disappointment"!  Well this week, in the spirit of the old saying "physician, heal thyself!" I have been dusting down my notes for that seminar and reading them again. I said then that among the weapons that we have to help us cope with disappointment is learning to trust that God is in charge and is working out some unseen but beneficial plan for us in love. I quoted the famous prayer of Reinhard Niebuhr:
'God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference'.  My disappointment is certainly in the camp of 'things I cannot change' and I need to let go and let God have his way in my life.

Another thing that can help in this fierce battle with disappointment is learning to embrace mystery, and along with it, the power of stillness and rest. It's not that I am worked up about this - amazingly I feel quite at peace about it - but that is something I have to choose and work at each day of the long waiting period.

So if you are disappointed, I hope that you might find help in what I am sharing here today, and the realisation that although these things do happen for us, Jesus is not a disappointment and he has "got our back" and is silently planning for us in love.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Trekking North for Breakthrough.

We are setting off for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England this evening as we prepare for a few days of tests, meetings and discussions that may well lead to a major operation in about four weeks time. This statue is of the 'Angel of the North' and we are really glad that the Lord of the north is going before us! Why Newcastle?  Well it is the only place in Britain now that offers the surgery that I need - a total pancreatectomy with transplanting of the islets of Langerhans into my liver! Wow - space age stuff eh?

I confess to being very nervous even of these few days, but I do feel a settled peace in my heart, and it is so important in life to 'follow your peace'. Getting the funding for this operation was a miracle of answered prayer in itself, and so this is just the next step in a long journey that we hope and pray will lead to a better day.

Thanks for being with us in prayer as we make this journey.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

This motivational text was used by the UK government during the Second World War in an effort to raise the people's morale at a time of great distress.  Enemy bombs were raining on some major cities and the young people of the nation were losing their lives in huge numbers at the front. There were food shortages and evacuations such as only those who have had the misfortune to live through a war can know, and the desire of the country's leaders was to try and get folk not to panic.

Recently this same slogan has returned as a decoration for mugs, tea-cloths and wall hangings, and this has had the effect of trivialising the words so that they have almost lost their power, but recently I have come to understand them in a brand new way. You see, I have found out that the fear of something can be almost as bad, and sometimes even worse, than the thing happening itself. As this has come about I have had to re-learn the wisdom of the old adage and "keep calm and carry on!"

I am facing major surgery once again, probably about the tenth time, although there have been more than thirty 'surgical procedures' each of which has been fraught with danger and pain. But, this is the big one!  An op that the professor described as 'the mother of all operations' awaits me in about a month, that has the potential to end my two decades of battling crippling pain and illness. But - I am really afraid and I don't mind admitting to it! I know that God is with me and that He will guide the surgeon's hands, but I'm only human and have had rather too much of this particular trial thank you. So, I have decided to live as if I am at war - fighting fear and the negative thoughts that assail me.  I recall the Bible verse that says 'take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ' (2 Cor. 10:5). What I face is terrifying but I am determined to "keep calm and carry on" trusting in Christ to see me through. Praising God and keeping the powder dry you might say!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lessons from Weakness

Sorry to have missed out on blogging for a while. Things have been a bit tough for me recently. In the last month or so I have spent 3 weeks in hospital with a vicious attack of acute pancreatitis on top of chronic pancreatitis. This has also involved a tangle with ascending cholangitis (nothing to do with the colon - this is an infection of the bile ducts and/or liver) and left me with pleurisy in both lungs and a partially collapsed lung. I just wanted to say all that to show that I haven't been lazing around all day taking it easy! It has been particularly difficult this time because of the problem of physical weakness just when I need to be strong for the possible major transplant op planned for this summer in the UK. But also because I want to encourage you if you also are passing through a time of weakness for any other reason. This too shall pass.

I think it's a man-thing not to want to own up to any weakness. We blokes like to see ourselves as immune to frailty or fragility of any type and it is so hard to become dependent upon the kindness of nurses and relatives to be able to meet even the basic demands of the day or night. My time in hospital has given me insight into the awful frustration that men and women feel when they become overtaken by weakness. All I can say is that I believe that this experience will not be wasted, and that it can have a really formative effect on our soul, our faith and our experience of God. When we place our weak hand in his powerful grip then despite our weakness we can learn, develop and grow spiritually.  That's why the apostle Paul said "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

One of the ancient prophets of Israel, a guy called Habbakuk, once went against the grain of the myth that says if you are a reasonably good person then you should enjoy success, wealth and strength. He wrote: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights". (Hab.3:17-19)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Scan that Reveals All!

Home again at last! After nearly a week in hospital I am so glad to be able to lie in my own bed again. Tho' it be e'er so humble there's no place like home! My days and nights of restless struggle in hospital were made more bearable due to the presence in the next bed to me of a dear friend. We did not chat much - neither of us were well enough for that - but as we both attend the same church and have a similar taste for peace and quiet, I enjoyed his company and know that he did mine. I hope that he is better now and can go home soon also.

During my stay it was necessary for me to be given a CT scan once again. This powerful and searching experience reveals so much to the medical team that can't be discerned by other examinations. This scan was key to understanding why my pain has got so much worse recently. It made me aware, though, if I had forgotten, that God sees who we really are, and not what we might like them to see or think about us. There is a searching and knowing process that is undertaken by God's all-seeing spirit, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. In the Psalms King David prayed "search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Ps 139:23-24)

I hope that my scan will be a step forward in my treatment and contribute to my healing. God's scan may reveal negative and unhelpful issues in our hearts, but He is still the great physician, and through the power of all that Christ has done for us that first Easter of the Christian era, "one touch from the King changes everything". Why not pray like David and invite a spiritual scan of your heart also? It might well be the key that unlocks your healing too.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A great warrior receives his reward.

This week a great warrior for the Christian faith died. Jerry Bridges, the author who challenged more than a million readers to take seriously God’s command for holiness, died on Sunday at 86. His best known book was "The Pursuit of Holiness" but to me he will always be remembered for penning the book that radically changed my life and thinking, Trusting God with the subtitle "even when life hurts". My life was really starting to hurt when I first picked up that book in 1997. It was the start of twenty years of agonising pain and frequent hospital admissions. This book, and the issues that it dared to raise, became a real source of strength to me.

Now the book represents a theology that not all will find easy to swallow or follow. But in it, Bridges asked some powerful questions like: "Can you really trust God when adversity strikes and fills your life with pain?" or "Do you have such a relationship with God and such a confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power?".

If you don't love the Bible more than all the philosophies of men: if you don't treasure the things of God more than all the glittering gadgetry of the age in which we live - then don't ever read this book.  But, if you do read any of Jerry Bridges' work, you will be impressed with the writings of a man convinced that God is always in control, and that His ways are the best for us despite the limits of our understanding. A very humane and humble man, Jerry Bridges blessed my life and the lives of countless others I'm sure. Now he is entering the eternal reward that waits for all who trust God, even when life hurts.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Power of Good News!

I had an amazing experience this week of the power of good news to lift your spirits and give you victory over pain and despair. I was lying on the settee at home around midday on Tuesday when the phone rang. My plan had been to try and get to our doctor’s surgery, or maybe even A & E at the local hospital due to the pain that I was in.  The phone call, however, was from our son who lives away from us, to say that he and his wife had just welcomed our new grand-daughter into the world!

You can imagine our joy and enthusiasm for this wonderful gift.  We knew, of course, that a baby was coming, but not its gender nor the actual day, but just a tad early the little girl was born and mother and baby are doing well.  This good news surged through me like an injection! I did telephone the doctor for advice on the phone about pain control doses etc but my whole condition perked up at the news I heard.

I am still physically unwell and in pain, but the power of good news and the birth of a baby overcame it temporarily at least. And this is the heart of the gospel – the good news of God!  His Son was born for our salvation and healing and the great news of his coming should be spread everywhere. Each place it comes and is received by faith, the good news will do its rejuvenating work. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Sign of Hope as we Face the Biggest Question

A good friend reminded me recently of a precious promise in God's Word found in the book of Job. "For a tree there is always hope. Chop it down and it still has a chance—its roots can put out fresh sprouts. Even if its roots are old and gnarled, its stump long dormant, at the first whiff of water it comes to life, buds and grows like a sapling" (14:7-9). Wow! I feel a bit like that tree - getting older and certainly cut down by pain and serious illness - but God is the lord of renewal, breakthrough and hope and he still has plans for my life. What a source of comfort at a difficult time. Hope is such an important commodity in a pretty desolate world. It gives the ability to endure all kinds of trials and to 'hang in there' long after you've been cut down and set aside.

I also received in the post recently a copy of a DVD and accompanying group leaders' manual on the subject "The Biggest Question" about why a God of love allows suffering. It features interviews with many folk with powerful stories to tell. You can see part of it here.
If you would like to see more, or order a copy of the DVD and/or the notes, especially for a small group you may be part of, you can find out more at I do hope you might find it helpful, and as my strength allows, I would be pleased to hear from you by email as we all struggle with this biggest question of all.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I was jogging along and then this thing came up ahead of me!

A major hurdle in my twenty year battle with serious illness has been passed this week. On Wednesday we heard that the local health authority has granted funding for a major transplant operation to take place in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of the UK. After turning me down twice this was a much welcomed turn-around and has brought a ray of hope to keep me running in this hurdles' race.

Initially I will be travelling to London again next week for further treatment. After that I will need a preparatory operation which will probably be done in Guernsey. There is at least a six week wait for that, and I will need a month after it to recover. Then, or perhaps before, I get to go up to Newcastle for a week of intensive assessment and 'working-up'. If they find me suitable then I will approach the final hurdle that will be the major op itself. This will involve removing my pancreas, spleen, duodenum and part of my stomach, and then transplanting the tail of the pancreas containing the 'islets' into my liver, so that it can continue to produce insulin there if all goes well. If I am still running after that hurdle I will be looking towards the finishing line!

Seeing life as a hurdles' race is a helpful analogy for me. The Bible speaks about running the race of faith and going into training for success in that race. I sincerely hope you will never have to run the particular race that I have run, but then I probably could not have hacked yours!  We are each called to our own individual race, but the important thing is not to give up! "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus"... I really hope I can keep doing that as each of these hurdles comes along!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

When I read these words on New Year's Day, I wept.

Early on New Year’s Day I was looking through my favourite version of the Bible for inspiration after a difficult Christmas period. I had been up to A & E over the special season, including on Christmas Day itself, and in touch with my GP twice in the space of four days or so. I endured the usual diet of overwhelming pain, fever, the rigors, extreme nausea – all the signs of a classic flare-up of my old enemy chronic pancreatitis. I say “old” because it was Christmas 1995 when I was admitted to hospital in Cardiff for the first of what would become over 100 such admissions in the last two decades.  Twenty years of frustration, struggle, and the loss of my ministry due to no fault of my own. It’s starting to get to me as you might well imagine.

And then I came across this promise of hope. God, speaking to His people Israel in the Old Testament, promised them that “I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Wow, that really hit home to my discouraged heart. Years ago, when we lived and worked in Africa, we were hit by a small locust swarm one evening. With the sound of an approaching express train it descended on a large bush in our garden and stripped the lot in seconds. When it lifted, like a swarm of hornets into the air, what had been a large and fruitful shrub was left a desolate collection of bare branches.

Maybe you have faced the hordes of locusts too. Whatever length of time has gone by, you probably can’t forget the sense of grief and loss you feel at opportunities denied you, relationships gone sour, loved ones taken away in their prime. The ‘not fairness’ of life takes its toll on us all, whatever the cause of the pain.

God knows our distress and hears our cry, even in the dark of the night. The Bible says in typically pictorial language that He keeps all our tears in His bottle. He must need a tanker for mine! I don’t know if the locust swarm will leave me in 2016 though I sincerely hope it does – but if not, this promise of God keeps me going as I start a third decade. “I will restore to you [place your name here] the years that the locusts have eaten”!

I don’t know how, or when, but I do know who will achieve this, and I’m holding on to Him for dear life!

Happy New Year!